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tavollbracht
15-12-2005, 17:41 PM
Hello, I am a relatively new landlord (five years) and my husband has asked me a question we have never had to consider. In one of our flats that we recently bought, there are stairs that are quite dark, narrow, circular, stone - get the picture?

My husband has put in extra lighting, but hand rails on both sides, put down carpet, but wonders if we can get the tenant to sign some sort of waiver in regards to the stairs. Can anyone help me with this? She is suppose to be moving in on Saturday morning!

Obviously this waiver would have to take in account for the upkeep by ourselves, but I was just wondering if this was even possible and if it is, would it hold up in court if she got drunk and fell down them? Or had any sort of accident on them?

Many thanks
Amy

Cinnamon
15-12-2005, 17:53 PM
If it was legal to sign a waiver here, then all sorts of waivers would make the rounds to exempt whatever is dangerous and against the law. If your stairs are within the law, then you do not need to worry about it, however, why not fix it anyway since you know it is dangerous? People do not have to be drunk to fall, a slip is easily done and life in a wheelchair is not fun (and you'd lose your tenant as well!)

Paul_f
15-12-2005, 17:56 PM
You can't ask tenants to "waive" their rights as it would be meaningless and unenforceable.

You have to excercise a duty of care which you appear to have done.

You don't give enough information concerning the flats; purpose built, converted house? How many in the "block"? Do you occupy one of them? How many floors? Are they self-contained etc.

As the 2004 Housing Act is more than likely to affect you just put in key words into the search facility. There is also www.odpm.gov.uk/housing for more information. Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO's) will have to be licensed, and it could be the previous owner sold up because of the new regulations concerning HMO's will almost certainly apply to you. It could cost you a lot of money believe me and the council will have its cap out too to cover their extra costs.

It's proposed to come into effect next year probably in July or October, but the government keep putting it back.

Ericthelobster
15-12-2005, 18:49 PM
If your stairs are within the law, then you do not need to worry about it, however, why not fix it anyway since you know it is dangerous?The problem is, what constitutes being "within the law"? By the sounds of it, the stairs concerned would definitely not be 'legal' if this was a new-build house; Building Control have very strict rules on the subject. But that certainly doesn't mean that everyone is compelled to rip out old stairs which don't conform to modern standards, when they would have been perfectly OK and legal when the property was built.

As an example - I recently subdivided an old house into two smaller ones, which involved fitting a new stairway. The old stairway remains in one of the two houses; the Building Control Officer said it was fine as it was despite having too little headroom, being too narrow, and too steep for modern regs. Even if I'd wanted to, there was in fact no way that 'modern' stairs would have fitted in the space without demolishing most of the internals in the house. I fitted a handrail, but there was nothing else that could be done to make them 'safer'. In contrast, the BCO crawled all over the new stairway, and insisted that it was 100% compliant.

None of which really answers the original query. Personally, I think all you can do is do everything feasible to make the stairs as safe as possible, which sounds like what you've already done.

I would guess that a very large proportion of the housing stock in this country - probably the majority, in fact - do not meet modern regs. As well as the issue of the stairs, for example, there is no requirement for every room in an older house to have a Means of Escape in the event of a fire - something which is enshrined in the modern regs. So, does that mean that none of these houses should be rented out for fear of the LL being sued if someone hurts themselves on the stairs, or fries in a house fire because the bedroom window was too small? Food for thought...

tavollbracht
15-12-2005, 22:18 PM
Thanks for the feedback, I think I have everything I need to know. Just to answer some questions - which are hard ones for this property. This property was started in the 16th century as a gentlemens residence. So, it was purpose built as flats, it also use to be a pub (that area is now two shops) with nine flats here there and everywhere :o)

It is also grade II listed. It is a typical old property - a warren.

Thank you again and Merry Christmas!

Amy

Cinnamon
16-12-2005, 11:06 AM
I would guess that a very large proportion of the housing stock in this country - probably the majority, in fact - do not meet modern regs. As well as the issue of the stairs, for example, there is no requirement for every room in an older house to have a Means of Escape in the event of a fire - something which is enshrined in the modern regs. So, does that mean that none of these houses should be rented out for fear of the LL being sued if someone hurts themselves on the stairs, or fries in a house fire because the bedroom window was too small? Food for thought...

To be honest, if in doubt, don't invest money in anything that is a future problem. No amount of money I can make justifies risking the lives of others.

Declaring a deathtrap to be a bedroom, when it at most is a storage room, well, you _can_ do it if you want to, but, why would you want to?

There is so much easy money lying about the place, that you can pick up ethically whilst pleasing everyone around you with what you're doing for them.

Cinnamon

Ericthelobster
17-12-2005, 18:00 PM
Cinnamon, I think you've missed the point; and I rather resent the implication that I'm a money-grabbing landlord with zero regard for my tenants' safety!

The simple fact is that millions of homes in the UK do not conform to current Building Regs, and until such time as Two Jags gets carte blanche to bulldoze the lot and force everyone to rebuild brand new houses everywhere, that's something we as a population live with. I used the example of 'Means of Escape' windows, which you've taken me up on; this particular regulation came in (I think, but could be wrong) only about 5 years ago, and if you look down any street in the country you'll see plenty of houses which just have relatively small top-openers in the windows, ie not large enough for a fireman to get in or an adult to climb out. I'm certainly not talking about describing a windowless boxroom as a bedroom for letting purposes, as you seem to be suggesting.

Cinnamon
18-12-2005, 10:33 AM
Cinnamon, I think you've missed the point; and I rather resent the implication that I'm a money-grabbing landlord with zero regard for my tenants' safety!

The simple fact is that millions of homes in the UK do not conform to current Building Regs, and until such time as Two Jags gets carte blanche to bulldoze the lot and force everyone to rebuild brand new houses everywhere, that's something we as a population live with. I used the example of 'Means of Escape' windows, which you've taken me up on; this particular regulation came in (I think, but could be wrong) only about 5 years ago, and if you look down any street in the country you'll see plenty of houses which just have relatively small top-openers in the windows, ie not large enough for a fireman to get in or an adult to climb out. I'm certainly not talking about describing a windowless boxroom as a bedroom for letting purposes, as you seem to be suggesting.

Well, you can smash a window and cover with a blanket to climb out, and any savvy person does a firedrill once in a while and considers how to deal with an emergency. It is the first thing I do when I move into a new house -- I find out how to turn everything off, I check the escape ways, the firealarms and put myfire safety stuff in place. (I work with glass, so I have a lot of respect for anything combustible!)

I thought you meant that the window hole in the brickwork is itself too small to be climbed through, which I personally think is unacceptable.

So, no, I don't think that the silly windows that are in some houses are that bad, as long as people know how to deal with the situation beforehand.

Cinnamon